Thousands protest in Madrid the planned pardon of Catalan separatists

Photo: AP

Tens of thousands demonstrated in Spain's capital Madrid on Sunday against the planned pardon of Catalan separatists by the left-wing government of PM Pedro Sanchez, news wires reported. The conservative association Union 78 had called for the demonstration. Opposition leader Pablo Casado of the conservative People's Party (PP) called on Sanchez "not to sell out the unity of Spain."

Spain’s minority government depends on votes from Catalan separatists for a majority in parliament, dpa noted. Sanchez plans to release from prison politicians convicted for the 2017 Catalan independence referendum judged illegal by the judiciary in Madrid - as a basis for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The plan is risky for Sanchez because those imprisoned are committed to Catalonia's secession and a pardon is unpopular in the rest of Spain.

Twelve Catalan politicians had been sentenced to prison terms of up to 13 years for their role in the illegal independence referendum and the attempted secession of the economically strong region in north-eastern Spain. The population of Catalonia is divided into roughly two equal blocs of supporters and opponents of independence.

The issue has also dominated the political debate at the national level and contributed to the rise of the nationalist Vox party, which has become the third-largest political force in the Spanish Congress, AP noted.

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